China locks down nearly 30 million people over record Covid-19 outbreak

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Beijing (AFP) – Nearly 30 million people were confined on Tuesday, March 15 in China due to the largest outbreak of Covid-19 in two years, a situation that led the authorities to carry out massive tests on a scale that had not been seen since the beginning of the pandemic. pandemic.

The country reported 5,280 cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours on Tuesday, the highest number since the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020, according to data from the National Health Commission (CNS).

At least 13 Chinese cities face full lockdowns and several others have partial lockdowns.

Through draconian restrictions, the country managed to contain infections after the first wave was born in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan, but recently faced multiple outbreaks linked to the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Tuesday is the sixth consecutive day that the balance of daily cases exceeds a thousand infections.

The numbers are small compared to other countries, but under China’s “zero Covid” strategy, even the smallest outbreak is met with harsh measures.

The northeastern province of Jilin was the hardest hit, with more than 3,000 cases on Tuesday, according to CNS. The provincial capital of Changchum, population nine million, as well as other cities, remain under stay-at-home orders.

Strong economic impact

The Jilin governor vowed to do his best to “achieve community ‘zero Covid’ within a week,” state media reported.

The technological metropolis of Shenzhen (south), with 17 million inhabitants, located at the gates of Hong Kong, was also confined.

Health workers wearing protective clothing take samples to test for COVID-19 in the Chinese city of Shanghai on March 14, 2022.
Health workers wearing protective clothing take samples to test for COVID-19 in the Chinese city of Shanghai on March 14, 2022. Hector Retamal AFP

These measures caused the closure of numerous factories in the city, including that of the Taiwanese giant Foxconn, the main supplier of Apple.

Shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange fell around 3% after sinking more than 5% the day before.

In addition, dozens of local flights from Beijing and Shanghai airports were cancelled, according to air traffic control data.

“The recent Covid-19 outbreak and new restrictions, in particular the lockdown in Shenzhen, will weigh on consumption and cause short-term supply disruptions,” Tommy Wu of Oxford Economics said in a briefing note.

He added that, with this, it will be a “challenge” for China to reach its official goal of economic growth of 5.5% for this year.

For his part, the Chinese doctor Zhang Wenhong raised the possibility of softening the ‘zero Covid’ strategy in the face of the omicron variant, although he admitted that in the short term it would be impossible to ease massive tests and confinements.

In total, the country registered around 120,000 cases of Covid-19 and 4,636 deaths. The last fatality from the disease officially dates back to early 2021.

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